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January 26, 2019


by Mike Henry
Samy Camacho rides five winners with two seconds, in complete control of the Oldsmar jockeys' race; fifth race honors late trainer Forrest Kaelin; Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South nominations to be announced Sunday.

No jockey enjoys losing. But judging from today’s card, leading Tampa Bay Downs rider Samy Camacho takes it personally.

A day after getting shut out in five races, Camacho rode five winners, getting up twice within the shadow of the wire. Every jockey relishes luck, but Camacho’s improved upper-body strength, achieved in large measure by riding his Equicizer mechanical horse at home and by running, is a major factor in his rapid emergence as the “go-to” guy for many of the track’s horsemen.


Samy Camacho

A lot of experts are also praising his patience and decision-making, with track announcer Richard Grunder proclaiming on several occasions “he can do no wrong.”

Such hyperbole is understandable, given recent results.

The 30-year-old Camacho, who has 58 winners for the meeting, won three races Wednesday and two Sunday. He leads current runner-up and four-time Oldsmar riding champion Antonio Gallardo by 21 in the standings. Camacho’s 28.3-percent strike rate is by far the best among the local colony.

Camacho, who has won four races twice this season, started the day by sweeping the early daily double. He won the first race on Trappe Me Later, a 4-year-old filly owned by Robert G. Smith and Cara Oliver and trained by Smith. He added the second on Last Promise, a 5-year-old gelding owned by Promise Racing Stable and trained by Bill Sienkewicz.

In the seventh race, Camacho and 5-year-old Florida-bred mare Bridge of Sighs captured a head victory from Dorothyfromdublin. Camacho won the eighth race on the turf, the Lambholm South Race of the Week, on 5-year-old Dover Cliffs, who beat Birdsnest Party by a half-length for owner Robert S. Evans and trainer Kent Sweezey.

He grabbed his fifth victory on Fort Ridge in the ninth on the turf for owner In The Green Stables and trainer Anthony Granitz, donning a Gasparilla Pirate Festival hat on the way to the winner’s circle to mark that annual Tampa celebration.

Camacho also posted two seconds. The track record for most victories in one day is seven, set by Richard DePass from seven mounts in 1980. Camacho also rode five winners on a single card here last April.

“I’m feeling great,” Camacho said. “I like having my family here and having them come to the winner’s circle. I feel a lot of confidence, and when I watch the replays I can see I’m riding with confidence, too. I won a couple of races today where I was patient and just waited, waited, waited until something opened up, and I think the top trainers like that.”

He’s oozing confidence these days, his agent, Steve Elzey, is hustling hard on his behalf and trainer are riding the Camacho bandwagon to the winner’s circle at a giddy rate. Tomorrow is another day, but Samy is putting together great weeks in a single day on a staggering basis.

Late trainer honored. Today’s fifth race was named for trainer Forrest Kaelin, who died in July at 83. As evidenced by the turnout in the winner’s circle after The Forrest Kaelin Memorial Purse, he was a beloved and respected figure at Tampa Bay Downs, dating back to his arrival here as a jockey in 1956 when the track was known as Sunshine Park.

“I think he was everybody’s friend, and he would help anybody who needed it,” said Allison De Luca, the Tampa Bay Downs Racing Secretary. “He was a smart, fun person and a very good horseman, and he could tell you how every jockey rode because he had been a rider. I think that made him a double threat” (to win races).


Betty Kaelin, toward center holding cooler blanket, is joined by friends of her late husband, trainer Forrest Kaelin, after today's fifth race

Kaelin greeted everyone with a smile and a twinkle in his eye, but when it came to getting to the winner’s circle, he could put niceties aside. He trained 1,600 winners, with career purse earnings of almost $18-million.

His wife of 63 years, Betty Kaelin, was joined in the winner’s circle by long-time owner Jack Matia and a host of fellow trainers and track officials. The scene was poignant yet uplifting for anyone who ever met the Louisville native.

Kaelin trained his share of excellent horses. He conditioned Da Devil, who won the Grade II Kentucky Cup Classic in 1999 at odds of 65-1. He won the first two runnings of the Stephen Foster Handicap at Churchill Downs, in 1982 and 1983, with Vodika Collins, before it was a graded race, that runner also won the Grade II Michigan Mile and One-Eighth Handicap and the Grade III Ak-Sar-Ben President’s Cup.

At Tampa Bay Downs, Kaelin won the 2013 Super Stakes with Good Lord, who set a since-eclipsed track record of 1:22.03 for the 7-furlong distance.

Six months have passed since his death, and an era is long gone since he first came to Oldsmar, but he won’t be forgotten by the hundreds of horsemen, jockeys and fans he touched.

“He loved his horses,” De Luca said. “I asked him once what he would have done if he had hit the lottery, and he said he would have done the same thing. Just to see those heads sticking out of the stalls every morning – that was what he enjoyed doing to the end.”

Around the oval. Jose Ferrer rode two winners today. He took the third race on No Honor No Deal, a 4-year-old Florida-bred gelding bred and owned by Julian De Mora and trained by Jorge Navarro. Ferrer won the fifth race, The Forrest Kaelin Memorial Purse, on 4-year-old filly Bonnie Scot for owner Hot Scot Racing Stables and trainer Dennis Ward.

Trainer Anthony Granitz swept both halves of the late daily double. After winning the ninth with Fort Ridge, he sent out 3-year-old gelding King’s Castle and jockey Keiber Coa to win the 10th for owner Calvin Johnston.

Thoroughbred racing continues Sunday with a 10-race card beginning at 12:38 p.m. Also Sunday, nominations will be released for the track’s Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South on Feb. 9.

Four stakes will be contested that day, highlighted by the Grade III, $250,000 Sam F. Davis Stakes for 3-year-olds, a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race and the major prep for the Grade II, $400,000 Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby on March 9.

Other Festival Preview Day races include the Grade III, $175,000 Tampa Bay Stakes on the turf for horses 4-years-old-and-upward; the Grade III, $175,000 Lambholm South Endeavour on the turf, for fillies and mares 4-years-old-and-upward; and the $150,000 Suncoast Stakes, a Road to the Kentucky Oaks points race.

Tickets for Festival Preview Day Presented by Lambholm South can be purchased online at ; click on “PREMIER DAY TICKETS” on the home page, then go to Festival Preview Day 39 Presented by Lambholm South and click “View Full Event Details.”

Tampa Bay Downs is open every day for simulcast wagering, no-limits action and tournament play in The Silks Poker Room and golf fun and instruction at The Downs Golf Practice Facility.